Journal of Traumatic Stress, 36(4), 712-726.
Insomnia and nightmares are common in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are associated with worse psychological and physical health and worse PTSD treatment outcomes. In addition, they are resistant to PTSD treatments, which do not typically address sleep disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and nightmares (CBT-I&N) and cognitive processing therapy (CPT) for PTSD are first-line treatments, but limited evidence exists guiding the treatment of individuals with all three disorders. The current study randomized U.S. military personnel (N = 93) to one of three conditions: CBT-I&N delivered before CPT, CBT-I&N delivered after CPT, or CPT alone; all groups received 18 sessions. Across groups, participants demonstrated significantly improved PTSD symptoms. Because the study was terminated prematurely due to challenges with recruitment and retention, it was underpowered to answer the initially intended research questions. Nonetheless, statistical findings and relevant clinically meaningful changes were observed. Compared to participants who received CPT alone, those who received CBT-I&N and CPT, regardless of sequencing, demonstrated larger improvements in PTSD symptoms, d = -0.36; insomnia, d = -0.77; sleep efficiency, d = 0.62; and nightmares, d = -0.53. Compared to participants who received CBT-I&N delivered before CPT, those who received CBT-I&N delivered after CPT demonstrated larger improvements in PTSD symptoms, d = 0.48, and sleep efficiency, d = -0.44. This pilot study suggests that treating comorbid insomnia, nightmares, and PTSD symptoms results in clinically meaningful advantages in improvement for all three concerns compared to treating PTSD alone.